General Question

phoenyx's avatar

For a job interview, should you dress in your most professional clothes or try to match the culture of the company you're interviewing with?

Asked by phoenyx (7385points) September 8th, 2010

This is to settle a debate with my mom.

I am interviewing for technical jobs. Some of the companies I’m looking at have “business casual” or above dress codes, but, for the most part, the engineers at the companies I’m looking at come to work in t-shirts and jeans. I’ve had one in-person interview so far. The person interviewing me was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. I showed up for the interview in a t-shirt and jeans.

Basically, my mom is encouraging me to buy a new suit, white shirt, tie, etc. to look professional. I insist that I should dress to match what people at the company wear.

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35 Answers

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Yeah. My mom does that too. I have to dress nice even to go out an look for work. It shows that you’re serious, so I’m going to go with your mom on this one. Wear red, it’s a power color
It’s hard to guage what to wear because every person interviewing you is different. I actually got my first job because the person doing the hiring hated people calling every day to check on their application.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I always wear nice clothes (dress slacks or a skirt and a nice shirt) to interviews. Nurses wear scrubs in most positions, but I don’t think scrubs are appropriate when interviewing (just my personal opinion). I’ve seen people wear all kinds of different clothing to interviews (we did peer interviewing). I think looking professional gives the best impression.

chyna's avatar

Dress a step above the people you will be working with. In an interview, always dress business professional.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I overdressed for an interview one time, but I still got the job. I don’t think you need a suit and tie for this particular company, but slacks and a shirt with a collar would not be out of line.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is better to dress more professionally than the person conducting the interview then to be more casually dressed. Unless the person conducting the interview tells you otherwise, I’d go with your mom’s advice.

christos99's avatar

always dress in a suit and tie for a job interview. Don’t forget nice shoes, and a belt. A little bit of cologne, nothing overpowering… dress to impress…

SamIAm's avatar

I think you should dress nicely and then maybe mention it while you are being interviewed… in a joking-ish manner, if the interviewer is in jeans and a t. Sometimes, in interviews, they ask if you have any questions about the job/company/etc, so maybe you could bring it up then – as a curiosity thing.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I have been told recently (because I am also looking for work) to always show up in a suit. If the company is casual, you can adapt when they hire you.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Dress in a professional manner.

bob_'s avatar

I’m going to have to disagree with the previous responders. If it’s an industry practice not to wear a suit, don’t. You certainly don’t have to buy a new one. Wear khakis and a shirt.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Wear professional clothing for the interview. It’s a sign that you take your work seriously, and didn’t just roll out of bed and show up. Regardless of what the industry practices are, unless it’s manual labor, there are times with every job professional job where professional attire is required. Far better to err on the side of overdressed than underdressed.

Haleth's avatar

Dressing well for an interview shows that you take the job seriously. This is the best side of you they expect to see, so by wearing jeans and a t-shirt, you showed that your best is the same as their everyday. I heard a more modern rule of thumb recently that I like a lot: dress as if it’s the best you will ever look doing that job. My previous job was a gig waiting tables at a casual restaurant, and I wore nice flat shoes, nice slacks, a button-down shirt and a crisp jacket. On the job I wore basically the same outfit minus the jacket. Later I saw some people waiting for interviews who were wearing some crazy stuff like crumpled cargo pants and a t-shirt. One lady was wearing a very tight hot pink baby tee for her interview. It just shows that you don’t care.

srmorgan's avatar

I used to do a lot of interviewing when I was CFO of my company.
In finance and accounting if you did not show up wearing a suit and tie (for a male) or something equally profession if female, a suit or (I can’t describe it) an appropriate dress, then I was just turned off.
For men, shoes are so important. If they look like shit, you are going to be judged as sloppy and lacking self-esteem.
The overall first impression is so important. I can remember looking at candidates in the lobby and knowing they were wrong based on appearance and dress. Show up sloppy and unprofessional and you will be judged that way.

even if you are applying somewhere where the standard outfit is t-shirt and jeans, throw on a NEW dress shirt or blouse, don’t wear old trousers or slacks that might be frayed or washed out. Make an impression.
When you show up for your SECOND day a work, look like the rest of the population but interviewing and first day, look like the boss.

Jeruba's avatar

Absolutely, dress professionally. Business casual, at least. And something that makes you feel comfortable, confident, and a little spiffy. Even if they’re in holey jeans, you dress nicely. They’re not being interviewed; you are. They probably wore a tie when they first walked in.

Cruiser's avatar

Simple rule….dress up for the interview to get the job and dress down as time on the job allows for.

srmorgan's avatar

I read Haleth’s reply and another thought came to me.

Dress for the interview the same way the company would expect you to dress if their biggest customer was coming in for a review or a sales pitch and you were expected to make a presentation.
Dress as if the venture capitalists are coming in helping the owners to do an IPO.

Dress the way you would if the suits from HQ in Minneapolis were coming in for an annual review.

Once again, impressions are so important.

tablack01's avatar

suit and tie no matter what. If you are interviewing for a professional job you have to dress like the top of the profession.

Austinlad's avatar

I agree with all who say dress professionally (freshly pressed slacks, jacket, tie) to make the best impression. Consider adopting your co-workers’s style only If/when you get the job and after a reasonable amount of acclimation. Remember… in this lousy economy, there are a LOT of people competing for every job. You simply MUST put your very best foot (and shined shoes) forward. (I’m a hiring manager, so I know whereof I speak.) GOOD LUCK!

jerv's avatar

I have gone both ways, and the last three jobs I’ve actually landed were all with nice, clean sneakers, black jeans, and either a button-up shirt with a spare working shirt in the car, or a hoodie with a skull-themed t-shirt underneath.

However, I work in manufacturing where they care more about knowledge and experience than about appearance. Clothes are no substitute for competence or confidence.

For the stuff I do, the interviews are often done by the foreman rather than by HR, and I’ve had my best luck dressing only slightly better than those holding the positions I am seeking.

Jeruba's avatar

P.S.   It’s probably ok if the new shirt isn’t white.

bobloblaw's avatar

When in doubt, go business casual. It’d also be helpful to know who/how your interviewer dresses as well.

john65pennington's avatar

Unless i was being interviewed to be a bodyguard for President Obama, i would wear clean, pressed clothes to the interview that fit the job. showing up in a suit for a mechanics position is too far out there.

rts486's avatar

As someone who has hired people, I recommend wearing a suite and tie (don’t forget to shine your shoes). At my office we wear dockers and shirts without a tie, but for an interview I’ll put on a suite and I expect the interviewee to put a little effort into trying to make a good impression.

jerv's avatar

@rts486 I have no idea how to wear a suite. As for a suit (no “e”), are you saying that the only way to make a good impression is to wear clothes that can be ruined by a bad thought and require more maintenance than my Toyota?
Don’t get me wrong, I agree that one should put some effort into looking decent, but if you judge me more by the shine on my shoes than on my qualifications, then I don’t want to work with you!
I still maintain that you can look good in more casual, practical clothes. Of course, you still need to iron your pants and shave your face…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jerv has a point…it depends upon the job one is interviewing for, and to go a step further, what the interview entails.

A good hiring manager would let the applicant know what is part of the interview process. If someone is applying for a car mechanic job and they are given a physical task to prove their ability, they should be forewarned. The same goes for our applicants that needed to give a presentation in front of a group.

Our office staff was allowed to wear business casual on Fridays, and they were often allowed to wear jeans if we donated money to a particular charity that week. When interviews were scheduled on Fridays, I would let them know that they would see people in less casual clothing than normal and allowed them to interpret that in their own way, unless they asked for advice. Every one showed up in a suit.

chyna's avatar

On my last interview I was sent a follow up email and they included in the email to dress business professional. I did notice when I went to the interview everyone was dressed casual. I do remember from my old job when a person came to interview, the boss made comments if the person had not dressed professional for the interview.

jerv's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I have always had that information before I went in and was told by some prospective employers not to dress too nicely for my interviews for that reason. Two of those interviews had me touring steel mills and one ended with, “Can you start right now?” and a half-day in a machine shop. Other interviews I’ve had had me elbow-deep in pottery glaze and climbing around job sites in a way that would demolish anything you’d wear in an office.
There is no excuse for looking sloppy, but I’ve found it best to dress as if you can start immediately without sticking out or ruining your wardrobe. And yes, they do make good-looking steel-toed shoes. Personally, I never wear blue jeans to any interview though; I have found that a nice, new set of black jeans can look dressed-up without hindering my ability to dive right into the job if I am hired on-the-spot.

rts486's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer. It’s not about shiny shoes; it’s about making a good impression. When I’ve had to hire somebody to fill a position, I had to weed through over a hundred candidates. From this I can select a dozen who are equally qualified to do the job. Each of these dozen will have at most, 30 minutes of my time to convince me to hire them. As I mentioned, based on the information I have on them, each is equally qualified. So what do I learn at the interview, and how do I make my selection? I am looking for the person who I think will take the job seriously and do what my organization pays him to do in a competent manner. If somebody comes to an interview and they haven’t taken the effort to put on a tie and shine their shoes, that tells me they aren’t really interested in the position, and also won’t put in the effort to do a good job at work. I really don’t care about shiny shoes. I wear casual shoes at work just so I don’t have to shine them. But if someone can’t put in the effort to make a good first impression, and believe me, the competition will, they are telling me they don’t want that job. There are plenty of qualified people for any job; I need to know someone will do a good job for me. But if you can get a position wearing jeans, go for that job.

des101572's avatar

i believe one should dress up well during an interview

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@rts486 Was your last response supposed to be directed to me? If so, I don’t understand why.

jerv's avatar

I think it was meant for me.

phaedryx's avatar

It looks like I’m going to be in the minority with my opinion: match the culture of the company.

I think a lot of this advice is good, but I doubt most of the people answering have worked in technical positions or are intimately familiar with “computer geek” culture. I do and I am. At my company, none of the programmers wear ties. If they do, they are mocked. Wearing a suit would be even worse. Suits and ties represent facade, arrogance, pretense, or being uptight. The most common reasons that interviewees are turned down: “not enough technical skills/experience” and “not a good fit for the team”. I’ve never heard a manager remark positively on how someone was (formally) dressed. It is usually something like “you don’t dress up like that all of the time, right?”

I have a friend who just interviewed for a web developer position. The manager he interviewed with was wearing shorts and wasn’t wearing shoes. My friend was glad that he decided not to wear a tie that day because he would “have felt awkward.”

I think that it is simple marketing. You want to present yourself as a “good fit” for the position and the company. My recommendation is to try to find out what a company’s style is and dress a bit above that for an interview. Why not just ask something like “Dress codes vary widely in the tech industry. What’s it like at your company?” and plan accordingly.

phaedryx's avatar

Hey Fluther overlords, out of curiosity, did Tim Trueman or Cameron Dutro wear a suit and tie when trying to get a job at Fluther? If they did, was it a significant factor in getting the job?

timtrueman's avatar

@phaedryx Wearing a suit is a totally foreign concept to me—I don’t even own one. If you’re working in SF—especially at a startup or tech company—wearing a suit would stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t get me wrong, people dress well but wearing a suit gives the appearance you’re a wage slave. The dude in jeans and a t-shirt at the coffee shop could easily be a billionaire.

If you wore a suit to an interview at Fluther it would hurt your chances significantly (at least from my perspective). Wearing a suit would feel like you didn’t know anything about tech company / startup culture and would give an appearance of that you are stiff, uncomfortable and/or awkward. Essentially if you wear a suit, it’s an instant no hire in my mind. Maybe if you were fresh out of school and this was your first visit to California I’d reconsider but I kinda doubt it (again my personal opinion, not Fluther’s). The two basic things you need to get an engineering job at Fluther are: be really fucking smart and fit in culturally.

That said I’m sure there’s some places where it’s totally required and would fit right in…unless you like wearing a suit, why would you want to work there?

I would wear a dress shirt (with the sleeves rolled up), nice jeans and nice shoes if I was in your position but it depends on the geography I suppose… @phoenyx where is this interview geographically?

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